More Living, Less Carb Counting: Move More
The benefits of regular physical activity cannot be overstated when it comes to promoting health and lowering disease risk. Exercise is particularly important in managing diabetes because it acts as a natural insulin. It seems almost magical, but here’s how it actually works:
Short-term: While you’re exercising, physiological changes allow glucose to enter your cells without insulin! That means, exercise will immediately lower your blood sugar. (Keep in mind, this can lead to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, so if you have diabetes keep glucose tablets, candy or juice on hand during exercise, and if you’re on insulin, work with your doctor to adjust your dosage.) If you find yourself with high blood sugar after a carb-rich meal, taking a brisk walk is an easy way to get your levels back into a healthy range.
Long-term: Over time, regular exercise improves insulin sensitivity, leading to improved blood sugar control and a lower A1c. Regular exercise also lowers blood pressure and LDL-cholesterol. This is important because people with diabetes are at higher risk for these conditions.
How much exercise is enough? And what types are best?
- 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise (think brisk walking, jogging, swimming, biking, dancing, rowing – anything that raises your heart rate.) For best results, aim for at least 30 minutes per day and don’t go more than two days between sessions. This is because the insulin-sensitivity benefits from a bout of physical activity last up to 48 hours after your workout. If you’re short on time or new to working out, you can break up exercise into two 15 or three 10 minute sessions.
- Two days per week of resistance training for major muscle groups. This can be free weights, machines, bands, body weight exercises, and even some forms of yoga and pilates.
Aerobic exercise tends to have a more immediate impact on blood glucose control, but over time resistance training will, too. As you build lean muscle through resistance training, you’ll be better able to clear glucose from the blood, thus lowering blood sugar levels.
Both aerobic exercise and strength training play a role in diabetes and weight management. The bottom line is get moving!
The BEST form of exercise is the one YOU enjoy and will actually do.
Consistency is key. Many people enjoy exercise more with a buddy, and the added accountability can be helpful when you’re trying to make physical activity part of your daily routine. Try meeting up with a friend for a walk or hike, signing up for a fitness class, or joining a meetup group. Find the form of physical activity you love and do it regularly.
New to exercise? Here are some great resources to get you started: